Indian Tanker Spills 1.5 Million Gallons of Crude Oil Into Red Sea

From Times Wire Services

An Indian tanker that ran aground off Saudi Arabia has leaked about 1.5 million gallons of oil into the Red Sea, officials at Lloyd's of London said Friday.

The 276,744-ton Kanchenjunga had taken on 42 million gallons of Saudi crude oil from the Yanbu Bahr terminal near Jidda and was on its way to Bombay when it ran aground Wednesday night.

The vessel, owned by the state-run Shipping Corporation of India, sustained some holes when it lodged on a reef about 6 miles from Yanbu Bahr.

In London, Lloyd's Shipping Intelligence Unit said about 1.5 million gallons of oil had leaked into the Red Sea from the Kanchenjunga's three damaged tanks, one on the port side and two on the starboard side.

It said those tanks contained close to 8.4 million gallons of light crude. Efforts were reportedly under way to stop the rest of the oil from leaking into the sea.

The Lloyd's spokesman said an expert from the International Tanker Owners' Anti-Pollution Federation had flown to Jidda to help control the spread of the spill.

An oil slick was drifting out to sea, and pollution experts, who arrived on Thursday, were assessing the situation and had asked for salvage crews, Lloyd's said.

Lloyd's said the grounding occurred at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Authorities in the port of Jidda were also investigating the situation, it said.

Shipping executives here said most of the oil would have to be pumped out before the Kanchenjunga can be refloated.

They said another tanker would have to come alongside the vessel pump the oil from it with the help of salvage tugboats.

Shipping sources said there were no reported injuries to the Kanchenjunga's crew members--who remained aboard ship--when the vessel ran aground.

"It's not clear yet whether the skipper was at fault," said one source, who requested anonymity. "Weather conditions were normal for this time of year, and we do not know of any unusual circumstances which may have contributed to the accident."

Saudi Arabia's official news media did not carry reports of the tanker accident or of the oil spill, and Saudi officials declined to comment on the incident.

The oil spill comes about a month after the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound off southern Alaska, spilling about 10 million gallons of oil in the worst such accident in U.S. history.

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